Accountability partnership: a secret ingredient for entrepreneurial success

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely road.  Everyone dreams of life after a successful round of funds being raised, staff being hired, and plunging headfirst into the making and shipping of widgets.  But there are many days which no one talks about, where a budding entrepreneur must find a way to get ideas from their brain to a whiteboard to a minimum viable product.  In those times, progress can seem elusive, and sometimes even when the resources are at hand, we may not know if we are moving forward.

By reputation, entrepreneurs are a skeptical lot.  Perhaps prior negative experiences have led them to strike out on their own, making them distrustful of future collaboration.  Maybe someone stepping into this world for the first time emulates the skepticism observed in successful entrepreneurs that they idolize.  This article offers that interpersonal skills may be the most lacking trait in entrepreneurs compared to an average cohort of working adults.

This apparent lack of interpersonal skills may be a profiling issue or just the nature of being an entrepreneur.  For those budding entrepreneurs who are interested in rising above the fray, one solution is to find an accountability partner.  A friendly ear, a fellow struggler, someone who understands.

In order to get the most out of this experience, an accountability partnership:

  • should deliberately aim to test new thoughts in a safe space
  • should focus on allowing us to shake the cobwebs and see what emerges
  • should be formed for a defined period of time

Improving interpersonal skills relates to practicing communication of our vision. The truest power of partnering entrepreneurs comes in catalyzing the ability for each partner to be heard from their own place of understanding, by someone who can relate but also offers reflection in the way of constructive feedback. The loneliness of entrepreneurism often lies in the chasm between our personal relationship with a long-held idea and the manifestation of that concept into a relatable reality recognized by the rest of the world. The glimmer of familiarity in the eye of another who also dares to dream, who also has wordless visions, who also knows they are only a thought away from their destiny, can provide the hope needed to continue on the path.

Entrepreneurs are likely to show up for themselves, more specifically for the idea that is to become their dream realized.  They can still be called to show up differently for and with others who see them and for those in whom they see a possibility, and a vision reflected.

How can we find an accountability partner?  What do we look for in the person filling that role?

1. Deliberately aim to test new thoughts in a safe space. Remember Sutton’s law: Go where other entrepreneurs are!  Our partnership began in a group of physicians who are aspiring entrepreneurs.  The admins suggested an accountability partnership to focus on and accelerate progress. We were paired up in the first cohort, and here we are collaborating and supporting each other.

2. Focus on allowing us to shake the cobwebs to see what emerges. In approaching a partnership, come with an open mind.  You don’t have to find someone just like you, but simply someone you can partner with well.  We have different personalities, habits, and goals, but our initial meeting (video call) allowed us to share our background, vision, and plans.  We decided on our personal commitments and then how we would show up for each other.  This is a deliberate conversation by necessity but is an evolving process as well. You have to commit to doing some work.  But that is exactly what the accountability is for, to help us progress by voicing out our plan to someone else and then following through.  Accountability is a practice in integrity, and partnering shares the experience with someone who has the same goals.

One of us (Amelia) committed to a daily word count with a different vigor when she knew that by posting them, she offered encouragement to her partner.  She found herself listening differently for the messages to emerge from the day, and she gained confidence in continuing to tell her stories from this commitment.

One of us (Akash) committed to finally pulling the trigger on starting a blog, noticing the delivery of the content was more meaningful and urgent due to the external cues and expectations from a partner.  He also found unexpected progress in program development through providing feedback to Amelia’s.

3. Formed for a defined period of time. The idea of an accountability partner is not new, but how you deploy: It matters. Acknowledge the entrepreneurial skeptic. How do we know that this will work for us? How do we know we won’t get stuck in a partnership that is not progress?  Isn’t that the whole reason we decided to ‘go it alone’ in the first place?

There is a simple solution.  Form your partnership for a finite amount of time.  In our case, this was six weeks.  Having an end balances a beginning. Accountability is synonymous with responsibility, wielding equally the power understood.  Each partner promises to honor the time and effort of the other.  Knowing it won’t last forever brings urgency to the venture.  At the end of the partnership, the two people can hopefully look at the lessons learned, the stumbles and the successes, and bring their better self to the next iteration of accountability.

While repeating accountability partnerships isn’t necessarily harmful, finding new partners provides greater value by honing interpersonal skills, practicing communicating your vision with someone new, and bringing a fresh perspective to old issues.  You can always keep in touch with partners who worked well.  With the right mindset, this is a win-win exercise.

Partnering for accountability allows you to make progress in your own enterprise.  You will also leave an indelible mark on the work of others and will likely add some strong friendships to your network.

Amelia L. Bueche is an osteopathic physician and founder, This Osteopathic Life. Akash Sharma is a nuclear radiologist and can be reached at Jeevun.

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